Making the Jump to Jets: One Pilot’s Story

Making the Jump to Jets: One Pilot’s Story

Diving from 17,000 feet, the airspeed increasing to more than three times what I’m used to in a Cessna 172, my instinct to pull out of the back side of a 6,000-foot-vertical loop is premature and aggressive — an understandable reaction to the visual sense of unprotected free-fall.

As the front-seat pilot, I sit so far forward of the wings on the Aero L-39 Albatros — its slender fuselage wrapping around me and bulbous canopy offering an unobstructed view of the world outside (in this case, Santa Fe, N.M.’s rapidly rising mountains) — that I feel as the 10,500-pound jet has disappeared, becoming an extension of my body. The L-39 reminds me it’s still there, responding to the aggressive control input with a buffet, warning of an impending stall. Release the back pressure before gently pitching up to level flight to complete the loop.

The jet’s only stall warning is the aerodynamic buffet first felt in the control stick and then the wings. But stalls, whether in the typical low-speed, pitch-up, power-off landing configuration at 90 knots or during a pull-out from a high-speed dive, are as benign as those in a light sport aircraft. Wouldn’t stalls be a little more dramatic in a jet warbird? “No, not in this one,” says Larry Salganek, owner and instructor of Jet Warbird Training Center.

For the complete story by Alyssa J. Miller of, click here.

Updated: March 29, 2013 — 10:23 AM
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